AP Photo/Kathy Willens
For some people, celebrating a birthday isn't a big deal. Mark Reynolds, however, really knows how to enjoy himself. The Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman swatted a pair of home runs Monday in a 6-5 win over the New York Mets, continuing his amazing season. Reynolds not only turned 26, but did it in grand style, hitting home runs off Nelson Figueroa in each of the first two innings, giving him 32 on the season. He joins Raul Ibanez and Justin Morneau as players that hit multiple home runs on their birthday this season.
What's amazing about Reynolds' night is that he now has four home runs at the new, challenging Citi Field, in all of three games and 12 at-bats. He's hit as many home runs in the new ballpark as David Wright has in 195 at-bats, and he's behind only Gary Sheffield and Fernando Tatis for most home runs hit there all season. Those guys have five homers each in a combined 221 at-bats at Citi Field. Incredible? Sad? Telling.
Let's move off the Mets futility -- yep, nobody can hit homers there, keep telling yourself that -- and focus on Reynolds, who pulls to within two home runs of the major league lead, also known as the Albert Pujols total of 34. Reynolds will never win a batting title, so we're not going to really compare the two hitters, but note that one of them has stolen 19 bases and remains the best major league option to reach 30/30 this season, especially now that Ian Kinsler is on the disabled list. Even if Reynolds falls a bit short, he's a top-10 fantasy player by pretty much any measure, if not more.
Reynolds is on pace for 49 home runs and 113 RBIs. He's also on pace for 29 stolen bases, 110 runs and hitting a strong .279, thanks to a .387 batting average -- and eight home runs -- since the All-Star break. Reynolds hit .239 a year ago, which is obviously quite a drag on a fantasy baseball team, and it helped to get him ignored in fantasy drafts. Reynolds' average live draft position in ESPN leagues barely got him drafted at all, at 218th overall. Sure, the guy strikes out a lot, and he's actually on pace to again break the major league mark for whiffing. He's also in the top 10 on our Player Rater. Does anyone care how much he strikes out if he goes 49/29 and bats .279? Didn't think so!
There are many options out there for biggest surprise among fantasy players this season, from Aardsma to Zobrist and with many names in between, and maybe Reynolds won't get many votes for that honor. Mark Reynolds, 30/30? He should get more attention.
• Zack Greinke had his worst pitching performance of the season, giving up 10 hits and six earned runs in only five innings of work against the Rays. Greinke's major league-leading ERA of 2.08 went up to 2.36, still enough to pace the American League, but good for only fourth in baseball, behind Chris Carpenter, Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain. Greinke isn't someone to sell high after this one, but it is worth noting he last won a game June 28. Of course, he hadn't pitched poorly in awhile until Monday, and remains a major strikeout option.
• As noted by colleague Jason Grey in his fine Monday column, Andrew McCutchen is developing into a complete player right before our eyes. Not only did the Pittsburgh outfielder swat three home runs in a recent game, but he went deep again Monday to lead off the bottom of the first. Fantasy owners seem a bit slow in adding this young player, but he has power, can run and hit for average.
• Most times when a starting pitcher gives up five runs in the first inning, it's going to be a really bad night for the unlucky fantasy owner. However, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander really bounced back after the Orioles began the game with a Brian Roberts home run, and later that first inning saw doubles by Ty Wigginton and Luke Scott that knocked in three more runs. Then Verlander settled down. For the next seven innings! He ended up striking out eight Orioles, and his flashy 3.16 ERA went up only to 3.29. He didn't get the win, because Clete Thomas didn't hit the game-winning home run until the ninth inning, but we thank Verlander anyway for turning what could have been a brutal ERA night into something not bad at all.
• Meanwhile, Dan Haren continues to slump in the second half of his season, giving up five runs to the Mets, but his team scored six and he earned the victory, his first in three starts. Haren has noteworthy first- and second-half splits over the past few seasons, with an ERA over 4 after the All-Star break, but he still leads the majors in WHIP at 0.88 and it would be hard to sell him on the cheap. Hey, he was much better than Nelson Figueroa, who became the fifth Mets pitcher ever to allow 10 hits in two or fewer innings. Wait, I thought nobody hits the ball at Citi Field.
• No, Kevin Gregg has not lost the closer role for the Chicago Cubs, but he did blow saves Saturday and Sunday and complained of a tired arm, so he'll be given a few days off. Carlos Marmol was summoned to finish up Monday with a 4-1 lead, and he made things a bit too exciting. Marmol walked the first hitter, allowed a single and then with two outs Alex Gonzalez doubled to deep left field. It could have been a game-tying three-run home run, but instead was a double. Marmol got the last out and picked up his fourth save, but again, it came with a high WHIP. Gregg will close when he's healthy.
• Clayton Kershaw had become one of the more reliable fantasy pitchers out there, having allowed two or fewer earned runs in his previous nine starts entering Monday. He didn't exactly get pounded by Milwaukee, giving up three runs, but six walks were a problem and limited him to four innings. Opponent Manny Parra avoided his major flaw, walking only one Dodgers hitter into the ninth.
• Closer follies: Trevor Hoffman relieved Parra with two men on in the ninth and nearly blew the save. He allowed Parra's runs plus one of his own, and the tying run was on third base, but Hoffman converted save No. 24. C.J. Wilson wasn't so lucky. A Rangers 2-0 lead turned into a loss when Wilson allowed four hits, including a Rajai Davis pinch-hit double to knock in the winning run. Frank Francisco needed 25 pitches to retire two hitters in the eighth inning. No word on when he's back closing. Mike MacDougal was summoned for a one-out save, and he converted it. He has 17 walks and 10 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings with Washington.
Willy Aybar, Rays
We'll bypass Reynolds and Ryan Braun to focus on a utility player owned in 1.6 percent of ESPN leagues who hit a pair of home runs Monday, one from each side of the plate. Aybar now has 10 home runs in 64 games, and the versatile switch-hitter probably deserves more at-bats, especially if Pat Burrell continues to struggle.
Dustin Nippert, Rangers
Filling in for Kevin Millwood, Nippert allowed one single in five scoreless innings, lowering his season ERA to 2.73. Nippert wasn't economical with his 91 pitches over five innings, but he has done a good job as a starter this season, and should stick in the rotation.
Texas Rangers top pitching prospect Neftali Feliz made his major league debut and struck out the first four Athletics he faced, becoming the first pitcher to do so since 1962. Feliz's long-term role likely will be as a starting pitcher, possibly as soon as next spring, but his two perfect innings Monday are a sign he could be Joba Chamberlain circa 2007.
• You can officially drop Edinson Volquez from your team, and he's probably not a good bet for next year, either, as he underwent Tommy John surgery on Monday. The recovery time is 12 months, although it could take even longer for him to be a fantasy option. Volquez last pitched June 1, lasting only one inning as he tried to return from elbow woes that initially landed him on the DL in May.
• A long season for the Diamondbacks might get even longer now: Daniel Cabrera has signed a minor league deal. We mock, but Cabrera has a career ERA on the wrong side of 5, and walks are always a problem. He started eight games for the Washington Nationals this season and issued 35 walks in 40 innings, going 0-5 with a 5.85 ERA. Cabrera, 28, will report to Triple-A Reno. I think Dan Haren's rotation spot is safe long-term.
• The Brewers made it official and placed right fielder Corey Hart on the 15-day DL due to an appendectomy. As reported by Tristan Cockcroft in Monday's Out of the Box, Bill Hall was summoned from Triple-A Nashville and likely will platoon with Frank Catalanotto. Hall got the start against Clayton Kershaw and fanned twice, but also delivered a bases-loaded walk. Hall used to be able to hit the lefties; against right-handers this season he's batting .177.
Click here for all the latest MLB transactions.
Christopher Harris: I really don't. I know he's supposedly throwing harder than he did last year, but I just can't imagine this is going to go well. He's likely a five-inning fifth starter who won't strike out many. Not the stuff of mixed-league glory, though it's possible he'll bump J.A. Happ from the rotation, I guess.
-- Full chat transcript
Matthew Berry: No. You don't have the speed, for one. Nor the average the power is legit, though. You're a step below Chase. But I said at the start of the season you'd be higher on Player Rater than Pedroia. Stand by it.
-- Full chat transcript
Tuesday's fantasy chat schedule:
AJ Mass, 11 a.m. ET
• Speaking of former first-rounders, Jeff Clement seems to like the Pirates organization, as he entered Monday with three home runs in his first three games with Triple-A Indianapolis. Clement didn't hit his fourth Monday, instead managing only a mere single in five at-bats, but he is 7-for-16 so far and should get the call to the big club in September, at the latest.
• After another 0-for-5 night for Cincinnati Reds outfielder Willy Taveras, one has to wonder what the team is waiting for in giving Drew Stubbs an opportunity. Stubbs delivered three hits Monday, knocked in two runs, scored three runs and stole his 42nd base in a win over Charlotte. With a .370 on-base percentage, Stubbs has Taveras beat in that critical category by 95 points.
• The most recent time Derek Holland was on the mound, he dominated the Mariners, heading into the ninth inning with a one-hitter. Holland ended up striking out 10 in 8 2/3 innings, easily the best of 10 starts as a rookie. He'll face Oakland's Gio Gonzalez, a fellow lefty who has really struggled. His ERA is 7.38.
• Battle of the titans at Citi Field, as Johan Santana faces Joel Pineiro? Don't laugh. Pineiro is the one in this matchup with a better ERA and WHIP. Pineiro hasn't lost since June, and the last time he allowed more than three earned runs in a game was May. By the way, he's available in nearly 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
• For more on Tuesday's games, check out Daily Notes.